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Christmas

Long lay the world in sin and error pining, Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
Wishing you hope and joy this Christmas.

Idioms Gone Wrong

A friend recently greeted Dan with the expression, "Dan, when I see you, I can't keep smiling."

We're hoping he meant, "Dan, when I see you, I can't keep from smiling."

Such a small, but vital difference.

Every now and then, we get a taste of what we must sound like learning Russian and I can't keep from laughing... or was it I can't keep laughing?


Thanksgiving

As per Moscow tradition, we generally begin the day with some ultimate frisbee with friends at a local park.  This year a balmy 39 degrees greeted us as we lined up on the field - compared to years past, it did feel a bit like summer - some kids were even in shorts!
Anna enjoyed toddling around in her snowsuit, cheering for Mom or Dad, then grabbed a quick nap in between frisbee and lunch.  We headed to some dear friends' to enjoy turkey and all of the delicious sides.  We ladened ourselves down with one baby, one bag of ikea children's chairs attached to the top of the stroller, 4 pies, and a few odds and ends.  I don't exactly remember what we did as far as transporting baked goods before we got a stroller.  A friend actually used a dolly to transport Thanksgiving goodness to our gathering place.  Ha, sometimes owning a car does not seem like the worst possible idea here in the big city...

This year was a bit of a record, 25 adults and 5 kids all gathered into one apart…

An American in Moscow

As most of America prepares to hit the polls on Tuesday, I thought I'd record some thoughts I've been ruminating over the past few weeks on being an expatriate here in Russia.  
Just a few weeks ago, I took Anna to a nearby park for some play time.  While we were there, we met Milana and her nanny Shabilat.  Shabilat asked where I was from, assuming that I was also a nanny working for a family in the area.  When I told her I was American, but that my husband and I lived and worked here, she immediately exclaimed, "you're so lucky!"  Shabilat immigrated to Moscow from Uzbekistan, a feat not warmly looked upon by the general Russian population here, and is currently working to obtain Russian citizenship.  The process is not an easy one, and requires that the applicant first renounce his/her current citizenship before even beginning the process of application.  Shabilat is not alone:  there are likely hundreds of hopeful migrant workers here literally without a home …

Trick or Treat!

Today I took Anna for a stroll in our neighborhood.  As she loves walking wherever we go these days, I pushed the stroller (in case of a stroller emergency) and she meandered alongside, stopping to point at interesting sites or meow at passing cats.  Not only is her toddler gait quite cute, but to make matters even more cute, 'tis the season for snowsuits already.  Anna ambles along in her puffy cosmonaut (astronaut) costume (snowsuit,) attracting the positive attention of everybody we pass.
Not only did we receive countless compliments on our walking skills, oohs and aahs from many a passer-by, and the occasional question as to how old we are now, we ended up with quite a bit of loot at the end of our 45 minute circuit:  2 apples, 3 pieces of candy, and 1 juice box.  It's better than Halloween here!
I am daily reminded of the pleasure of living in a such a child-friendly culture.  Children are truly a joy and delight to Russians; they are honored, treasured, and daily celebr…

Jesus in Pampers

If you're looking for a place to get rid of unwanted pocket change, generally outside an Orthodox church is one of the best and easiest places to do just that.  There are consistent almspersons near our regular church, and over the past couple of years, we've gotten to know some of them.  One woman usually stops us and asks specifically for a larger donation on behalf of her mother.  She suffered a stroke a few years ago, and now must wear pampers (the word for diapers here in Russia - a result of branding.)  Pampers are expensive, particularly for the elderly on a minimal pension.  This Sunday, her situation struck me in a new way.
The gospel reading today came from Matthew, chapter 25:   When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.And he will place the sheep on his right, but …

Riding bikes!

This Autumn we've borrowed some friends' child's seat for a bicycle.  We've really had a great time taking family trips cycling up through the near-by forrest.

Our building manager (Babushka Galina) was at first quite surprised to see our set-up.  Quickly, though, she warmed to the idea, cooing and calming "Marika" (what she calls Anna for some reason - it's now been much too long to correct her on the name,) into an explosion of smiles, enthusiastically wishing us "happy trails!" as we peddled off.

Here's a clip of Daddy and Anna cruising along at top speed:


School's Back in Session

September 1st.
Rain or shine.
Tuesday or Sunday.
School's back in session.


This year, September 1st fell on a Saturday which was no deterrent for the "Day of Knowledge" (first day of school) festivities.  Students of all ages gathered for their parades and assemblies, complete with bell ringing by a chosen first class girl atop the shoulders of a last class boy.
We ventured to the Pedagogical University where we'll be spending a lot of our time this semester.  Although student-age people crowded the university grounds and buildings, it was difficult to ascertain if much (or anything) was going on at all.
We learned that the university community does not take the month of September too seriously.  Professors and students alike try to set up their schedules for the semester, without actually attending classes or even going to the university.  "It's the season of discounted fares to Egypt and Turkey, so teachers like to take their vacations in September,"…

The Missing Generation

We occasionally attend church services at an Orthodox temple right in the center of Moscow's bustling downtown district, just minutes from Red Square.  One Sunday, as we stepped out of the church and turned to head back toward the metro via Tverskaya Street, Moscow's main drag, we were met by hundreds of people enthusiastically gathered with megaphones, songs, and communist flags.  

Oh, so this is the "protest" to which that Embassy notice referred...  "Red rallies" are not at all uncommon here - and very rarely are they in any way dangerous or menacing (this line inserted particularly for grandparents.)  The protesters make an agreement with police and government officials about when and where to gather, typically on this section of the main street just outside our church, and peaceably assemble for speeches, hymns, and chanted slogans resonant of an era gone by.
This Sunday, we were particularly struck not with the relatively bi-polar nature of our Sunda…

Summer Laugh

"He who drowns will no longer swim in the sea"

The Sound of Russian Music

The hills were alive here in Moscow from October to June.  
A friend and I went to see this spectacular production on its closing week - incredibly impressive.  While it clung very tightly to the American version, there were quite a few unique moments of Russian humor, satire, and a very powerful response to Nazi fascism absent from the Julie Andrews' "original." I quite enjoyed our evening at the theater - and look forward to "Mamma Mia" coming in October 2012!  Imagine, all of Abba's hits translated into Russian except for one line from the song "Dancing Queen."   Stay tuned for a noteworthy review!

Before I leave you, allow me to share with you Russia's version of America's version of favorite things to be had in Austria.  Courtesy of google.translate (thus the humorous gramatical errors...)  [Also, please keep in mind that it does actually go with the music when sung in Russian...]
Christmas tree in garlands and colorful beads, Joyful l…

Anna's First Birthday

One year!  It's so hard to believe!   Although we still joke that she's still our tiny, 7lb baby, Anna has reached the one year mark at the top of her weight and height classes, full of words and smiles, and brimming with the same simple joy that's held us captive from day 1.

Our party was a picnic in the park with friends.  Party hats were required.

A close up of the birthday girl and her "cheese," (which is Anna-speak for any kind of food and "yes please I'll have some of that!")
The big birthday present?  A flower balloon - hours minutes of entertainment!

Happy birthday, sweet Pea, we love you so much.

The Advantage to City Life

It occurred to me a couple days ago at a picnic in a city park: living in a big city does have one incredible advantage.  As I was arranging watermelon slices on a plate, it struck me that through the entire 3 hours of our picnic thus far, I had yet to be bitten once by a mosquito.  In fact, I can't remember the last time I'd even scratched a mosquito bite that I'd picked up in Moscow.  I can't even remember being bitten!  Oh glorious city with your smoggy air, lack of fresh water sources, and chemically inhabitable insect  colonies, how I love you! 

It's true, one day I may regret missing out on being cloned with the rest of the human race at this time in history through the petrified remains of nature's blood-sucking treasure, the mosquito.  But not here and not now.
-rkc

The Guinea Pig Experiment

We're watching our friends' guinea pigs for a couple months this summer.   Anna was thrilled to see some new faces around here... at first.  

It doesn't seem that the pigs actually bit her, perhaps just got a little too close for comfort.  At any rate, they've become fast friends since this incident.  Anna crawls over to their cage waving and squealing to greet them each morning now.  We're also learning new words like, "careful," "gentle," and "NO!" while hosting the piggies.  Good times.

A Hit at the Hermitage

When touring the Hermitage in St. Petersburg with my folks in May, we learned that although still not able to walk, Anna proved to be quite a tour guide!  Her favorite thing to do this month is point!  When we let her loose, she steadily crawled all over the place, pointing out the more spectacular art all around her.  I was amazed at the rave reviews she received from the museum attendants - everybody oo'ing and ahh'ing along with her.  As with most places we go when Anna's with us, we made a lot of friends.  One older Russian man even said, "one day she'll be able to tell her children 'I crawled around the Hermitage before I was one year old.'"


Chekhov's Russia

"Русскому человеку в высшей степени свойственен 
возвышенный образ мыслей,  но скажите, почему в жизни он хватает так невысоко? Почему?"
"The Russian person is extremely gifted at thinking on a sublime level,  but, tell me, why do we aim so low in real life? Why?"
Chekhov penned this words in his work "Three Sisters" in 1900.  Although over a century old, I cannot better express this very thought provoking Russian paradox today.  Russians are some of the deepest, most philosophically minded, intelligent, and compelling people I know.  Yet, stepping off a plane and taking in one's first glimpse of the mother land, one would hardly guess that that could be so.  There is such a disparity here between the world of the mind and the world of the senses.  Obviously this is not a new trend, nor a product of the Soviet era, it has been this way at least the past one hundred years.  How and why this is the case, though, remains somewhat of a mystery, seemingly ingra…

Simple is as simple does.

Simplicity has always been a high value for me, at least so I thought...  Reading up a bit on the recent trend of "simplicity," however, has left me a bit at odds with my former ally.  Perhaps this is because I mistakenly equate simplicity with ease.  Easier almost always seems better to me.  For example, packing light means less awkward, sweaty, explosive fits of rage at the airport:  easier, simpler, better.  Having fewer things means fewer spousal arguments or manipulative tactics about what makes the cut moving to a new apartment:  easier, simpler, better.  Choosing to do one thing a day, rather than seven, means I might have time to make dinner:  easier, simpler, tastier.

Although I recognize that easy does not necessarily always mean simple, it seems nowadays that simple does not necessarily mean simple either.  Simple, it seems, has become a brand, a lifestyle, a luxury.  Simple is planting an extensive garden in your backyard to grow your own produce and herbs organic…

Out for a Stroll

When asking Russian students what they like to do in their free time, you get some general responses, watch movies, listen to music, hang out with friends, but also, walking.  Walking? There are Russian verbs ходить or идти which connote a certain direction or goal in traveling by foot, but there is also a Russian verb, гулять, which means simply to take a walk – without a certain direction or goal, but just to promenade, to go for a stroll, generally with the company of friends or family. In fact, kids here don't come over and ask if their friends can come out and play, they ask if their friends can come out for a walk. It took me a while to get used to гулятьing. Hiking in Colorado, even though I go for the company and experience, often my companions and I have some sort of goal: get to the top of such and such a mountain, see a particular waterfall or other beautiful sight, get to the end of a certain trail. When my friend, Masha, called and invited me to go for a walk, I asked…

Snow Days

Recently, I've combatted a bit of a split reaction when it comes to reading my friends' Facebook status updates about, of all things, snow days.  Typically when my friends post about an unexpected snow day, it's done with all the finess capable of multiple explanation points and those weird sideways smiley faces.  Of course, I too cherish those memories of turning on the radio early in the morning, waiting calmly and collectedly for "District 20" to be announced, then exploding in a power jump herkie so emotive that sleeping in is no longer possible.  But now that I live in the land of snow, I find myself torn when reading about my friends' good fortune.  It's not that I miss the snow - no, quite the opposite.  From December to April of any given year there is more snow on the ground one day in Moscow than the accumulated 10 years of my childhood in Denver, Colorado.  The problem then?  Russia doesn't do "snow days."  

"Wait, wait, you…

Temperature Index

I've noticed that one of the quirks of living here in Russia is that I've somewhat acclimated to the celsius temperature scale.  I say somewhat because it seems that I've managed to retain my knowledge of fahrenheit in regards to warmer temperatures, but when it gets cold, I switch to celsius.  Moreover, I've developed my own associations of what these temperatures feel like.  For example, 70 degrees fahrenheit feels like a shorts and t-shirt run down the Boulder Creek Trail complete with sunglasses, chirping birds, and a babbling creek beside you.  As I'm realizing right now as I type this, my colder associations are not nearly as picturesque, but useful nonetheless:
0 C (32 F) - Pre-winter or "cool" some might say.  This doesn't feel quite like cold so you can get by with your fall jacket in this kind of weather, but don't forget your hat!  You should have started wearing a hat 10 degrees ago at least!
-10 C (14 F) - Now we're talking!  Thi…

Winter Walks

I had always wondered how these Russian super moms here managed to warmly walk their children for hours at a time in below freezing temperatures.  Could it be some secret slow release foot warmer contained in the high heel?  No.  Now I know:  the awesome power of the stroller muff.  I thought about asking a mom passing by if I could just warm my hands in her muff for a few minutes.  Then I realized I didn't know the word for "muff" in Russian and figured the possible consequences of asking in my own words could severely limit my trips to the park in the future.  I guess it's off to Ashan to pick up a stroller muff...

Baby's First Christmas

Here are a few pictures captured on A's 6 month birthday, just days before Christmas.